Sunday September 21, 2014
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21.09.2014
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Ruthie Blum

Taking moral relativism to immoral heights

As soon as the findings of a three-year study on Palestinian and Israeli textbooks were released on Monday, it became clear why the powers that be in Ramallah were as pleased as punch. In one fell swoop, decades worth of proof that Palestinian children are taught to deny the existence of the State of Israel and to commit jihad against the Jews was erased.

The study was initiated by the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land, funded by the U.S. State Departments Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and conducted by political psychologist Daniel Bar-Tal of Tel Aviv University, director and cofounder of the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East Sami Adwan of Bethlehem University, and professor of psychiatry Bruce Wexler of Yale University.

Given the title of the study ("Victims of our own narratives?"), one need not have waited three years to read the conclusions of the "experts" whose goal is achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians through education. Indeed, as its name suggests, the study finds that, while neither Israel nor the Palestinians are guilty of "dehumanizing and demonizing characterizations of the other," each side presents "the other as a violent enemy bent on destroying or dominating the self-community ..."

One example of the latter is that Israeli textbooks depict Palestinians "negatively" by linking them to the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. (How this particular piece of history could be portrayed otherwise without rewriting it is beyond me.)

It is no wonder, then, that the Israeli Education Ministry decided not to cooperate in the study at its outset and now denounces its outcome. Just like the infamous 2009 Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, the Israeli government realized that this was going to be yet another "balanced" document equating the democratic Jewish state with its hostile counterparts.

Nor is it entirely surprising, as was reported in the Jerusalem Post, that many members of the Scientific Advisory Panel set up to review the study, and the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, say they were not shown final drafts of the document prior to the press conference announcing its release.

But it is interesting that even the State Department is now distancing itself from the study, by saying that it funds all kinds of such research, and has no horse in the race, so to speak. This probably has more to do with the fact that the study was conducted during Hillary Clintons term as secretary of state, and its findings fall on a just-instated John Kerry who is undoubtedly certain that he will be the one to "get the Israelis and the Palestinians to resume talks at the negotiating table."

And this brings us back to the initial impetus for the study. As long as a certain premise remains intact that there are two peoples who can't get along due to mutual mistrust and a lack of societal awareness of each other's legitimacy there is hope for a solution. This premise has been repeatedly revealed to be utterly false, but not enough to convince academia, a realm in which "science" is all-too-often employed to blur, rather than get at, the truth.

George Orwell wrote that "people can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome."

That the grossly obvious goings-on in the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority and in the Hamas-led Gaza Strip are "unwelcome" is clear. But ignoring them serves only to perpetuate a situation that peace-seekers are desperate to rectify. And while Israel is left with no choice but to keep its weapons cocked and Iron Domes on the ready to defend its populace from terrorists and missiles, the Palestinians have no protection whatsoever against the poison they are being fed by their own leaders.

It is venom that is purposefully injected into every walk of their lives. Not a day goes by without messages from mosques and magazines, during parades and sports events, in crossword puzzles and cartoons and, of course, at summer camps glorifying martyrdom. Many schools in the Palestinian Authority are even named after suicide bombers.

Any study that says otherwise not only oils the cogs of the Palestinian propaganda machine, but takes moral relativism to new heights of immorality.

Ruthie Blum is the author of " To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring.'"

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